Korea in spotlight at London Book Fair

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Korea in spotlight at London Book Fair

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Starting tomorrow, Korean writers will get the spotlight at one of the biggest publishing events in the world, the London Book Fair.

Korea has been picked for this year’s market focus. As the guest of honor for the three-day event, Korea will have its own space to present more than 25 publishing companies, as well as seminars to introduce Korean writers and talk about the latest trends in writing on the peninsula.

“Korea being the focus of the London Book Fair, which is a significant publishing industry event in Europe, is very meaningful and important because it confirms the power of the Korean publishing industry, testing our own competitiveness and how far we can expand into the world,” said Ko Young-soo, chief of the Korean Publishers Association.

Each year, around 1,500 companies from 60 countries come to London looking to buy the rights to new writers. Last year, the event garnered 250,000 visitors, when Turkey was the market focus.

“It seems like the UK has shown growing interest in contents made in other countries, especially after it hosted the Olympics,” said Jun Hye-jeong, head of the exhibition, film and performance team at the Korean Cultural Center in London.

“The fact that the book fair invited Korea, despite there being so few Korean books translated and published in the UK, shows that interest in other cultural contents has been growing there.”

Until now, only a few writers have sold their books in the West. Among the recent success stories were the children’s book “The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly” by Hwang Sun-mi in February and “Please Look After Mom” by Shin Kyung-sook, which came out in 2011. Shin’s book, while it was more popular in the United States, was hardly seen much on the shelves of bookstores in London, according to a local resident.

Previously, Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo also hit the headlines of media as he managed to pave his way into the heart of the United Kingdom, even though readers there are notorious for not welcoming translated literary works.

With a chance to receive some spotlight solely on Korea’s publishing industry, local literary experts hope that this book fair will open more chances for local writers and give readers around the world better access to the translated versions of their literary works.

“The London Book Fair is a very practical business-to-business book fair, where rights for works by major writers in English-speaking countries are actively traded,” said the association in a statement.

Among the Korean writers going to London for the book fair are Kim Young-ha, the author of “Your Republic Is Calling You” and “I Have the Right to Destroy Myself,” and Hwang Suk-young, the author of “The Guest” and “The Ancient Garden,” as well as Shin.

Meanwhile, with many readers moving to mobile devices to consume books, Korea has prepared to show how its e-book industry has evolved.

The Korean Publishers Association is working with the Korea Creative Content Agency to show some of the most popular web cartoons, which are usually displayed through major portal web sites.

Among the 90 that will be shown is Naver’s “Noblesse.”

The Korean Cultural Center in London is having an exhibition to show how Korea has excelled in printing since ancient times. Around 50 copies of old printed documents will be exhibited in a show titled “The Art of Printing” until June 14, including the Sarira Reliquaries from the Three-story Stone Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple (National Treasure No. 126), the oldest existing documents printed from woodblocks.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]



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